San Bernardino County’s effort to shelter homeless underway

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Photo MJ Duncan: 20 trailers have been set up at Glen Helen Regional Park in Devore to house homeless individuals.
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In alignment with Governor Gavin Newsom’s Project Roomkey to shelter extremely vulnerable individuals experiencing homelessness to protect them from COVID-19 by securing hotel rooms and travel trailers, the County of San Bernardino unveiled 20 state-funded trailers set up at Glen Helen Regional Park in Devore on Monday, April 13.

According to San Bernardino County Second District Supervisor Janice Rutherford the trailers provide the opportunity to place “high risk individuals off the street and in shelter for their safety and for the wellbeing of the greater community.”

Photo MJ Duncan: Board of Supervisors Vice Chair Josie Gonzales and Sheriff John McMahon preview the state-funded trailers.

Each trailer can house one person or a family of two. Occupants will sign agreements requiring them to remain on the park grounds for the duration of the emergency.

According to CaSonya Thomas, San Bernardino County Human Services Assistant Executive Officer, individuals are being identified by the County Department of Public Health and the Hospital Association to be placed in trailers over the next few days, those who need isolation who are either COVID-19 positive or COVID-19 exposed but do not require hospitalization or ready for hospital discharge.

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“High risk population individuals 65 and older, and underlying health conditions – those are the priority groups established through the Governor’s Project Roomkey,” Thomas explained. “Our model’s purpose is prioritizing the homeless population along with that policy outline.”

26 people have been placed in a San Bernardino hotel and the County is working on agreements with other lodging facilities in cities throughout the county to house additional homeless individuals and families.

“That’s the starting point – working with those hotels within those various communities then trying to align what they offer and with what our needs for the homeless are,” Thomas added.

The use of hotel units and trailers for the unsheltered homeless and medically stable COVID-19 patients will be secured for three months and will terminate upon the rescinding of the State order.

“The County is maximizing our collective effort to fight this health crisis head-on, which demands the necessary and expedient action of sheltering the homeless in place to reduce the spread of the virus and protect everyone’s safety,” said Board of Supervisors Vice Chair Josie Gonzales, who is also founder and chair of the San Bernardino County Interagency Council on Homelessness. “We must value the efforts and sacrifices of those who are sheltering at home, by using every means possible to ensure everyone is sheltered in place in order to abate the fast spread of COVID-19.”

There are more than 2,000 unsheltered homeless individuals living in San Bernardino County. There are approximately 300 homeless identified as extremely high risk by medical doctors due to their age and serious health conditions. 

The County’s goal is to secure at least 300 units throughout the county in multiple communities as quickly as possible to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the unsheltered community and the entire county population.

“Although COVID-19 has forced everyone in our community to make difficult decisions, it has also provided us with an unprecedented opportunity to support people experiencing homelessness,” said San Bernardino County Chief Executive Officer Gary McBride. “Homeless individuals, who once declined the offer for immediate supportive housing, now, like the rest of us, desire protection against COVID-19 in the safety and comfort of a shelter’s four walls. Our hope is that through this crisis, some homeless individuals will recognize the county and the community’s commitment to end homelessness and seek extended services which lead to permanent housing, employment, wellness, and resiliency.”

Off-site homeless service providers and Department of Behavioral Health staff will provide case management services by phone. The County of San Bernardino, along with Inland Empire Health Plan (IEHP) and Molina Healthcare, will organize meal services, and security will be provided 24/7 at each site where individuals are placed. Once the State order has been lifted, those homeless individuals who have not been connected to permanent housing will be diverted to the appropriate homeless service provider and returned to where they were originally staying as identified by the outreach team.

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